The XF60mm f/2.4 macro lens was one of Fujifilm’s early lenses for the X Series, and it can be a glorious diva at times.
To say that the XF60mm lens has had something of a bad rap would be a polite understatement. Even so I still bought it, swimming directly against the tidal wave of online rumblings and rants warning against it. Perhaps it was the challenge of taming it? Or was it the fact that it was highly discounted at the time?
The lens was one of the early and notoriously well-built lenses for the X series, some of which were defiantly sluggish and temperamental in the autofocus department; and sure enough the 60mm boldly lives up to that billing.
At the dawning of X time, when the series was first created, it was Fuji’s first and only “macro” offering, although with its 1:2 magnification ratio it’s only half way to being a true 1:1 macro lens, so don’t expect full macro capabilities from this lens. Either way, it was clear statement of future intent from the brand.
It’s 90mm focal length equivalent (compared to full frame) combined with its close up abilities made a it potentially very useful tool for my detail and portrait work, and I was intrigued to know just how far I could push its alleged limited capabilities outside of this, and to know what imagery I could pull out of this finely tuned and extremely alluring lens.
Straight out of the box this is a lens that oozes fine build quality and alludes to certain individualistic definition of class, as does the huge (and sometimes unbalanced) metal lens hood that comes with it.
As soon as it’s mounted to the camera and you power up you find out exactly why it gets the negative reviews. The autofocus is frustratingly slow, and hunts like a one legged garden gnome in a swampy jungle at night, and who just happens to be wearing the noisiest single boot he could find. Yes, it’s very slow to grasp focus and also noisy while desperately trying to find its way there.
These traits came as no surprise to me. Everything I’d read and seen online pointed with a waving finger directly towards this, and so I’d taken it on board with manual focus and one shot close up work in mind.
Manual focus seems like a great compromise for such a lens, especially for close up work – and surely is. The only problem is that with this lens you have to twist the focus ring for what seems like an eternity to get there, making things very restricting if you want to catch any moving subjects in a hurry.
I’ve had this lens for several years now, and my work around for this situation is to use back button focus to get vaguely onto my focussing plane (as it also really struggles in highly contrasting light and colour situations) and form there I finely tune the focus manually using focus peaking, which is quite effective.
All of this may well sound discouraging and negative, but the truth is that this lens has really grown on me over time. I now use it in all sorts of situations and on a semi-regular basis, more than enough to have made it a worthwhile investment.
Despite its frustrating temperament this lens is optically mesmerising, and can produce perfectly sharp and classical looking images when handled with the care it demands.
For studio lit indoors work the 60mm really is a star performer, and when you step outside and take your time it is capable of unveiling beautiful things (as long as you’re not in a hurry that is).
Sure there are several faster, newer, and more highly rated Fujinon lenses hanging out in this focal length area, and of course there’s the 80mm macro, and I’ve no doubts that they are great lenses. Even so, this lens can be found in pristine used condition or new for a fraction of the cost of the newer lenses, and it has a distinct character all of its own. This (in my opinion) sets it apart from the other lenses in the current Fuji line up, and it’s a bargain..
When I attach this lens to my camera it’s usually either with a dedicated studio or detail shot in mind. When that’s done with I often end up leaving it on for a few days and heading outside to simply have fun with it.
There’s something about its character that makes me grin inside, and I often come home with an image that I’d never even contemplated. This lens is not (for me) a workhorse; it’s a labour of love that returns on the toils. That really is the joy of proudly owning this lens – the “special” one that they rarely like to talk about. Heck, maybe a lens truly can reflect your own character without you ever realising it?